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Coastal fishermen J.D. Evanow from Charleston, OR, James L Moore and his wife Cheri from Bandon, and fishing comrad Charles Clewell, also from Charleston, tell their story from Moore's home west of Merrill.  The government has cut down their fising season while the media blames the Klamath Project.

"It’s not your fault."

Part 1 of the Coastal Fishermen’s story to Klamath Basin farmers

by Jacqui Krizo, Klamath Courier Reporter
August 10, 2005


Merrill - James L. Moore was born and raised on a farm near Merrill. He was a third-generation Klamath Project farmer and former Executive Director of Klamath Water Users until 2001, when he became a Coastal Fisherman. Now he’s a member of the Oregon Troller’s Association living in Bandon, Oregon.

Moore has read the media and government agency myths blaming the Klamath farmers and ranchers for Klamath River fish-kills and fishery shut-downs on the coast hundreds of miles away.

Moore, his wife Cheri from Bandon, and fishing comrades Charles Clewell and J.D. Evanow from Charleston, OR, met with the Courier to tell about the shutdown of commercial salmon fishing.

          How commercial coastal fishing was back then

Fishing 20 years ago was a lot like farming. In spring you would know when your season was, sort of like sports fishing or farming, perhaps March through October. You knew when you could fish and where.

Moore explained that in 1977 there were 10,000 commercial salmon trollers on the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. You fished when the weather was not hazardous and when the fish were biting. And you could depend on fishing to make a living, contributing to a thriving coastal fishing economy.

           How is it now, and why are fishermen being killed?

This year in Oregon there are only 540 active permits, approximately 120 in Washington, and according to California Fish and Game, 1392 in California. That’s a far cry from 10,000 permits in the past.

Moore said this year the fishermen were told their season would be open March 15-April 1. Then they had a 15 day opener in May. And they didn’t receive their federal regulations until June 15, so they didn’t know how long or where they could fish the remainder of the season.
Some of the weeks that they are permitted to fish, they must drive up the coast several miles away, increasing labor and fuel costs, and adding extra moorage fees, while they aren’t allowed to fish out their back door.

The worst, deadliest regulations are the intermittent days or weeks of fishing which the fishermen call "derby fishing." If you are allowed a few days on and a few days off, you must fish no matter what. "Here in the past few years we’ve lost dozens of people forced to fish waters that they shouldn’t have been on in the first place for economic purposes."

"In the last three and a half weeks we lost four boats and four men," said Cheri.

After derby fishing was forced upon Alaskan fishermen they lost more than fifty boats and crews, Moore said.
Evanow told the Courier, expressing his concern that his son might be killed in a derby opener, "I have two boys and a granddaughter. That’s all I have to live for. That’s all I care about."

Moore said one opener in 2003 killed 33 men; "I was fishing in storms and everything. I was thrown on the floor."

What also irks the trollers is that this year is projected to be one of the highest salmon runs in history. And the California delta has so many fish that they are overcrowded and dying. "There are so many salmon running out of air, dying because they can’t be harvested and they are getting parasites." The dying fish, said Moore, are worth millions of dollars.

But the government agencies and ‘environmental’ groups say that there is a short run of salmon in the Klamath River, they are blaming the Klamath Project irrigators for their short run of Chinook Salmon, and "they hold the entire West Coast hostage."

NOAA made a regulation that if the Klamath River fell below 35,000 fish count, ocean fishing would be curtailed considerably to commercial fishermen because some of their catch may be Klamath fish. They only counted wild salmon, even though legally they were supposed to count hatchery salmon and wild salmon. So when Judge Hogan ruled that hatchery fish must be counted too, NOAA raised the number of fish needed in the Klamath by tens of thousands, continuing to impede commercial fishing.

For example, out of a hundred salmon caught, there might be two or three Klamath River salmon. For that reason, NOAA fisheries chopped up and cut down the season. So the management, NOAA Fisheries, is curtailing fishing up and down the West Coast because of one river.

         Bills and laws made back then to protect the fishermen are being ignored

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Public Law 94-265 says that there can be no management decisions without considering the economic detriment to fishing communities. According to this Act, "the term "fishing community" means a community which is substantially dependent on or substantially engaged in the harvest or processing of fishery resources to meet social and economic needs, and includes fishing vessel owners, operators, and crew and United States fish processors that are based in such community."

Moore says that this Act has been totally ignored, just like when they shut off the water to Klamath Basin irrigators in 2001 without considering the social-economic impacts.

Ralph Brown, Vice-Chairman of the Curry County Board of Commissioners in Brookings, stated in the 2004 Congressional Hearing on the Endangered Species Act in Klamath Falls: a few years ago fishermen delivered seven million dollars worth of salmon annually into the Port of Brookings, so with processors, the community effect was $21 million. Now they are down to $700,000 and there are no processors., being one thirtieth of what it used to be.

In 1956 a law was created by Fish and Wildlife to conduct a fish hatchery system to produce enough fish for tribes, sportsmen, and commercial fishermen, "to provide fresh fish for the populace." The government has failed to comply with this law. With a lawsuit by ‘environmental’ groups to prevent hatchery fish from being counted as real fish, Judge Hogan ruled that there is no genetic difference between wild and hatchery fish. So to sabotage commercial fishing, the groups now call the hatchery fish "endangered’, foiling science and court rulings, further shutting down commercial fishing. "How can you have endangered species when you can raise them in a hatchery?" asks Moore.

           How do the fishermen feel?

"They’ve taken our lives," said Clewell. "We want them to give us our life back."

Clewell and three partners just bought a commercial fishing boat this year for $35,000 with three partners and they can’t use it because of the closures. "I don’t want welfare, I just want to go fishing. I’m forty per cent disabled but I can fish. The government has taken our live three times." His boat grossed $50,000-$60,000 annually, but this year so far, $7,000.

Evanow grossed $30,000 last year between March and June, and in the same time frame this year grossed $4,000.
There is anger, desperation, and hopelessness. They are being exterminated, just like the Klamath Basin farmers, with no science or logic behind the regulations. That’s why they asked the Courier to tell their story.

                 Coming in this series

What are the fish fleets 30 acres wide with "National Marine Fishery Service" written on them?
What is President Bush’s ‘Ocean Plan’?
What are ocean "leases"?
What is Bush’s plan for ‘fish farms’?
And What exactly are ‘farmed fish’?




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